What the Englishmen did to Indians for over two centuries, the Indians are now doing to their language with a vengeance, that too in a bewildering variety of shades and meanings.
“English as she is spake”, used to be the phrase denoting “Queen’s English” that was sought to be propagated by the Oxford-Cambridge dons and the BBC to the rest of the world. As also by a select band of our own brown sahibs (Shashi Tharoor, for instance) who could hold their own in the language — both spoken and written.
Of late, the offsprings of the brown sahibs have begun to speak with a Texan drawl that could put a blue-blooded Yankee to shame.
Within the subcontinent, there are as many variations of spoken English as there are local lingos with each giving its own delicious flavour and touch to it. If its istation or ischool that’s heard frequently in the Hindi heartland, the Punjabis “my-ur” (measure) their “pli-er” (pleasure) in myriad ways. Be it their lions or loins!
For a Malayali, “as” becomes “aass” and the “o” in his “office” and “college” gets a real boost (O-ffice and cO-llege).
“Yes” and “Yums” and “Yuns” are of course the Intellectual Property (IP) Rights of the Tamils to describe the otherwise sedate alphabets “S”, “M” and “N”. “If your name is Yes Subramaniam, why do you always write No in the files that is sent down to you,” an exasperated Punjabi boss was once heard asking his Tamil assistant. Telugus — whether from Telangana or Seemandhara — seem to have something against the word “against”. Most of them cannot but pronounce it as “again-est”.
For the Bengali, a pleasant stroll along the beach becomes a matter of “enjoying the bitch”.All his English vowels get rounded off to a uniform “o”, while consonants like “v” and “w” become “b”. So it is: “bhen I saw her bhutiful face, I was bholledobor...” Kashmiris routinely slip in an extra vowel in “structure” to make it “sutructure”.
If you are offered “snakes” with “masala” tea at a hard-core vegetarian Gujarati’s house, don’t get alarmed. It’s just his special way of pronouncing “snacks” that all vegetarian Gujaratis consume with so much gusto, any time of the day or night.
Why these delicious delicacies have such explosive sounding names like khakra, dhokla, fafda, handwa et al is a question asked by Kareena Kapoor in 3 Idiots that could well be the subject of a tantalising research!
Some years ago, a first-generation Sikh settler in London used to tell his visitors from India that he could not quite make out what his kids were telling him in their heavily accented Cockney English. Parents of US-settled Indians face a similar dilemma today as they gamely try to “figure out” what is being conveyed to them over the phone/skype by their own offsprings or grandchildren from the US of A.
That’s the price every “global Indian” perhaps needs to pay for the burgeoning globalisation.